There are two ways of thinking when it comes to re-reading books. Some argue the first experience of a book is the best, never to be re-created with a second reading, while others vow multiple readings can enhance the reader’s understanding and opinion of a book. I am firmly in this second category, a veteran re-reader since elementary school.
Nevertheless, I read Veronica
and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
just one time each for this tournament, and I’m basing my choice of the winner of this round on their re-reading potential. Veronica
, while beautifully written, didn’t keep me coming back for more even as I was working my way through it. And I do mean working. The story of a middle-aged woman remembering her days as a model and the friends she madeone in particular, who died of AIDSis terribly sad and slow. Though it’s short, at 227 pages compared with Extremely Loud
’s 340 or so, the prospect of reading it again is daunting.
I’ll mention that this is one of the first books I’ve seen
to successfully address the trauma of the Sept. 11
attacks without turning overly sappy.
Foer’s book, dealing with the aftermath of Sept. 11, is also sad at times, but it’s lightened considerably by a preternaturally engaging young narrator and a plot that actually feels like it’s going somewhere. Foer relies on photographs, font quirks, and other gimmicky interruptions to keep the plot moving along. Normally, I wouldn’t appreciate that, but in this case they contributed to the overall feel of the book as a keepsake or scrapbook of a child. The best part is that while they look childish, there’s a writerly reason for them, content behind themmaking me think a second reading would uncover more meaning.
(In addition, and as an aside to New Yorkers, I’ll mention that this is one of the first books I’ve seen to successfully address the trauma of the Sept. 11 attacks without turning overly sappy or whipping out the American flag.)
I’m honored to have the chance to pick the winner in a match-up between a National Book Award finalist and a TMN reader favorite. In this case, I’m siding with the readers. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
moves along to the next round.